GIVE ME OIL IN MY LAMP!
[To watch this sermon as preached click sermon title.]
By Mark E. Hardgove, D.Min.
Text: Matt 25:1-30
25:1 "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
6 "And at midnight a cry was heard: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!' 7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' 9 But the wise answered, saying, 'No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.' 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.
11 "Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!' 12 But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.'
13 "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
Have you ever judged a book by its cover? I know we are told, from the time we are small children, not to do that, but let's be honest, sometimes we look at someone and think, "There's a trustworthy person," or look at someone else and think, "He looks suspicious." Sometimes we look at the externals and think that someone is spiritual, or that they're not spiritual. But in this parable today, Jesus illustrates for us that we cannot judge a book by its cover. And even more importantly, we need to be sure that what we are advertising on the outside, is what we really have on the inside, because one day the Lord will return and He will separate the wheat from the tares, and He will separate the sheep from the goats, and He knows who has oil in their lamp, and who does not.
I FIRST CENTURY JEWISH WEDDING
I believe the parable today is an example of how the outside, the way things appear, are not always the way things are. Before we explore this parable, let's consider how first century Jewish weddings were conducted. [The source of research is http://www.oasistradepost.com/Weddings_/weddings_.html]
When a Jewish man wanted to marry a Jewish woman, it was customary for the groom's father first to approach the girl's father to propose marriage between their children. The two fathers would discuss the possibility of marriage, which included the price offered by the groom for the bride. If the girl's father agreed to the proposed amount, the two men sealed the agreement with a drink of wine.
The young woman then entered the room and at that point the groom declared his love and asked her to marry him. If she accepted his proposal the seal of the agreement made by the couple was the presentation of a gift, usually a ring, by the groom. He gave it with at least two witnesses present. As he gave her the ring he said, "Behold you are consecrated unto me with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel."
Immediately arrangements were made concerning the terms of the marriage. A formal contract listed the time, place, and size of the wedding as well as the dowry and terms of the marriage. This contract called a "ketubah" was kept by the bride until the consummation of the marriage. At this point the first part of a two-part ceremony was concluded by a toast of wine. This ceremony was called the "Shiddukhin," which means simply "engagement. " The Bible refers to this engagement as the "espousal" or "betrothal."
At this point the two people are committed to each other as much as a married couple would be and the only way to break it was by a bill of divorcement. The only parts of the marriage not yet completed were the formal "huppah" ceremony, followed by their physical union.
At this point the groom assured his bride with the promise of building a home for her and returning to complete the marriage ceremony. He left and usually took a year to prepare her new home, which was often an addition built onto his own father's house.
The bride was expected to remain true to her groom as she prepared herself and her dowry. She looked and longed for his return for her. His return was announced by a shout from the members of the wedding party. The continual expectation of the return of the groom was to influence the bride's behavior during this engagement period.
The typical Jewish wedding took place at night. As soon as any members of the wedding spotted the moving torches signaling the groom's approach, their cry echoed through the streets, "The bridegroom is coming." When she heard the announcement the bride would drop everything, get into her wedding dress, and complete her final personal preparations for marriage.
The groom did not enter the bride's house; instead the bride came out to meet him. Then they, along with the wedding party, went to the groom's home for the marriage ceremony. After the public ceremony, the newlyweds entered their bridal chamber to be intimate with each other for the first time. After this union, the groom came out and announced to the wedding guests, "Our marriage is consummated."
Upon receiving the glad news, the wedding party began a seven-day celebration. The celebration lasted seven days only if this was the first marriage of a virgin girl. During this time the bride and the groom stayed with each other in seclusion. At the end of this time of privacy, the groom would present his unveiled bride to everyone in attendance. The newlyweds then joined in the wedding feast with the guests.
II ) THE PARABLE
Now look back at the parable, Jesus is speaking about the kingdom of heaven, but more to the point, He is talking about the expectation of the return of the groom, and the state of readiness of the bride. In the New Testament the bride of Christ is the church. Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven can be compared to ten virgins who took their lamps to go out and meet the bridegroom." Apparently the word had gone out that this was the night that the groom was coming to complete the wedding ceremony. This was the night they had been waiting for, looking for, anticipating, and they all dropped what they were doing and grabbed their lamps to out to meet him.
Jesus says that five of the virgins were wise and five were foolish. All of them had their lamps, but only five took along any extra oil for their lamps. The foolish virgins took their lamps, but they didn't take any oil other than what was in the lamp and therefore they were not prepared for any delay, they weren't prepared to wait for him. But Jesus said the groom was delayed, and all ten virgins fell asleep. Then at midnight the announcement was given, "Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out and meet him!"
When they heard the announcement they all got up quickly and trimmed the wicks on their lamps, but foolish virgins didn't have any oil left in their lamps and they began to ask the wise virgins for some of their oil. But the wise virgins were too smart for that. After all, they were wise virgins. They said, "No, there might not be enough for us and you. If you want oil, go out and buy some oil for yourself."
As it turned out, while the foolish virgins were out trying to buy oil, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding and the door was shut." There is finality to that statement, sort of like when God closed the door on Noah's ark and there was no second chance. Jesus said that when the foolish virgins came back they cried out, "Lord, Lord, open to us!" But he answered, "Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you." Then Jesus concluded the parable by saying, "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."
III) THE LESSON
What is Jesus telling us with this parable? Usually with a parable there is one overarching lesson that is supposed to speak to us. The point of this parable is found in the final statement of Jesus. He says that we must be watching, we must be alert, we must be prepared every day for His return because we don't know what day that will be.
However, we see also some secondary lessons. First, we see that there are two types of people. In this parable there are wise and foolish virgins waiting for their groom. They didn't know when he would come, but they were to be ready for him at any moment. They were to be ready to drop everything and go to him for the completion of the wedding ceremony. Nothing should hinder them from going to him,
What was the difference between the wise virgins and the foolish virgins? By all appearances, there was no difference. They all had their lamps, they all trimmed their wicks, and they all looked like they were ready, but there was a problem. Five of the virgins were running out of oil and their fire was about to go out.
You must remember that their lamps were not like the lamps we use today. I grew up in West Virginia and our power went out several times a year. The electric lines run though the hills and forests and every time we had a lot of wind, the power would go out. So we always had lamps ready. Our lamps were made of glass and you could see the level of the oil in the lamp. But first century lamps were made of clay. The point is that you can see the lamp, and you can see the wick, but you can't see the oil.
I think Jesus is saying that there are people who look, on the outside, like everything is ready. They claim they are ready to meet Jesus when He returns. Everything on the outside seems to indicate that they are ready. But on the inside, in places where no one else can see, they are empty. There is no oil.
In the Bible oil is a common symbol for the Holy Spirit. Oil is used to anoint prophets, priests and kings, and in the New Testament it is the Holy Spirit who anoints Jesus at His baptism and it is the Holy Spirit who anoints the church in the New Testament. In addition to the anointing, the Holy Spirit is the agent by which we know we have been Born Again. Jesus said that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (Jn. 3:6). When we are Born Again, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us and we become the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that it is the Spirit who bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.
Here's the thing, there are people who appear to be ready for the bridegroom's return. They are going through the same motions that everyone else goes through. The foolish virgins had their lamps, went to the house to wait, they trimmed their wicks, but what no one could see was that they had no oil.
According to studies by various researchers, the majority of people who come to church, sing the songs, teach classes, sit on boards, and serve on the staff of churches have never had a transformational encounter with Jesus Christ. In other words, they have no oil in their lamp and when the midnight cry goes out, when the coming of the King is announced with the voice of the archangel, many of the people who look like they're ready for Jesus to return, and who talk like they are ready for Jesus to return, and who act like they are ready for Jesus to return, will not be ready when the bridegroom comes for His Bride, the church. No wonder then that the old song pleads, "Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning! Give me oil in my lamp, I pray!"
You would have thought that the oil would have been one of the first things the foolish virgins thought of bringing with them. You cannot sustain a fire without the oil, and you cannot walk in faith without the Holy Spirit. I'm not talking about the baptism of the Holy Spirit-certainly we all need that to empower us to be His witnesses-but I'm talking about the Holy Spirit who comes into our lives at the moment of salvation. I'm talking about that moment when we are born of the Spirit and the fire of salvation is ignited in our souls with joy unspeakable and full of glory. I'm talking about that powerful, life changing, transformational moment when old things pass away and behold all things become new. My prayer is, "Give me oil in my lamp!"
I don't need any more feel good sermons. Give me oil in my lamp! I don't need any more self-help, I'm okay, you're okay sermons, and I don't need any more watered down, sugarcoated, milquetoast sermons about how everybody is going to heaven just because we were born. I need oil in my lamp! I need fresh oil! I need an abundant supply of oil. Oil like that which ran down over Aaron's beard down to the hem of his garment. I need oil from my head to my toe. Because when the bridegroom cometh, when the alarm is sounded, when the archangel heralds His return, I want enough oil in my lamp to light a fire that will shine a till Jesus comes. Give me oil in my lamp!
It's time to stop acting like we're ready. It's time to stop talking like we're ready. And it's time to stop pretending like we're ready. Friends, Jesus is coming soon, it's time to get ready, it's time to be ready. Give me oil in my lamp! I want to know that my sins are forgiven, my name is written in heaven, and there is oil my lamp.
Five foolish virgins were left out in the cold when the bridegroom returned. All that waiting, and all that anticipation was wasted because they were not ready when he returned. The groom had been preparing their home, and getting everything ready for the final phase of the wedding ceremony, but five foolish virgins with no oil in their lamps were left on the outside looking in.
The Bible refers the church as the Bride of Christ. We are betrothed to Him. So where is He now? He said, in John's Gospel, chapter 14, verses 2 through 4
2 In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
The Bridegroom has been preparing our home, but in hour that you think not, that's when He will return for His Bride, a Bride without spot or blemish, whose robes are washed in the blood of the lamb. "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God"( 1 Thess 4:16). When that cry goes forth you are either ready or you are not. You either have oil in your lamp or you don't.
What about it? Is there oil in your lamp today? Or do you feel like the foolish virgins who said, "Our lamps are going out." It might be that you have the look, you talk the talk and it seems you walk the walk, but is there oil in your lamp? In places no one sees, in your heart of hearts, does the Holy Spirit reside? Are you truly a temple of the Holy Spirit? Don't wait for the midnight cry to find out. Don't wait until it's too late. If you need oil in your lamp today, then today is the day of salvation, and this is the time when you need to make a radical, life transforming decision to open up your heart, soul, mind and spirit to God and let Him have control of your life.
There are so many people coming to church week after week, but they're running on empty. The fire is about to go out. They have no joy, no passion, no zeal. If that's you, then you have opportunity today to be a wise virgin and ask the Lord to fill you with fresh oil, ask Him to refresh you, revive you, refill you with His Spirit.